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Pentagon: "Very Robust" Probe of WikiLeak Source

Last Updated 1:13 p.m. ET

The Pentagon has launched a "very robust investigation" into the source of the leak of more than 90,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, the release of which a spokesman said "could endanger the lives of our forces and imperil our nation's security."

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said a probe into determining who leaked the documents to the website WikiLeaks, which published them on Sunday (in conjunction with The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel) is in its early stages.

Special Section: Afghanistan

"Our focus really, frankly, is to try to determine if there is anything in these 90,000 pages of documents that could indeed endanger our forces; we've got a team doing that round the clock," Morrell told anchor Erica Hill. "This was dumped on us like it was dumped on you all Sunday night.

"It would have been nice had this organization had the decency to come to us and work with us to try to figure out if there's anything in here that could endanger our forces. We were not given that luxury," he said.

When asked how many people might have had access to this classified information, Morrell replied, "We're not going to get into sort of the scope of what was involved here in terms of the databases that may have been breached. Suffice it to say this information is classified for a reason. This involves secrets that should not be disseminated into the public domain and could potentially endanger our operations and forces in Afghanistan."

The documents cover the years 2004 to 2009, and describe in detail why the U.S. is in so much trouble in Afghanistan: The U.S. has been fighting with too few troops and causing too many civilian casualties; the Afghan government is corrupt and inefficient; and Pakistan is an uncertain ally which at times has supported the same Taliban that is killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The White House has been downplaying the substance of these documents as old news.

"Though new and unprecedented in the scope and the sheer size of this leak, the information itself, the content of these documents, is not particularly new or illuminating," said Morrell, who said the issues raised within the documents dating back six years have been addressed by the current war strategy.

"It points to issues that we've identified as being problem areas for months, if not years," said Morrell. "The under-resourcing of this conflict: the president has tripled the number of forces there. The fact that civilian casualties [have] been a problem which we've been trying to deal with: U.S.-caused civilian casualties down by a third this year, Taliban civilian casualties nearly doubled this year.

"And the Pakistani partnership that is so vital to our success in Afghanistan is one that has been trending in the right direction for months, if not a couple of years now.

"So the most recent of these documents is at least six months old by now, and that is clearly out-of-step with where this relationship is and has been heading for some time now."

In a statement from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President said, "The recent documents leaked out to the media clearly support and verify ... that success over terrorism does not come with fighting in Afghan villages, but by targeting its sanctuaries and financial and ideological sources across the borders" - an allusion perhaps to Pakistan.

When asked if there was a way to be sure that U.S. nonmilitary aid being sent to Pakistan is not being used in any way to support terrorists, Morrell said, "We have as many controls as we can have on our aid to Pakistan. The Kerry-Lugar-Berman Amendment provides $1.5 billion a year over the next five years. But remember, this is a sovereign country who we are partnering with in the war on terror. We're working with them together to go after the terrorists in their midst who not only threaten their government and our forces in Afghanistan, but our well-being here stateside, as well as our allies around the world."

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Tuesday afternoon that the probe is being lead by the Army's criminal investigative division, which led the investigation into Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, who was .

Complete Coverage of WikiLeaks' Afghan War Documents:

Leaked Docs Expose Afghan Failings, Plague Military
WikiLeaks vs. the Pentagon Papers
WikiLeaks Changing Whistleblower Rules
Docs May Dent U.S.-Pakistani Relations
Washington Unplugged: WikiLeaks Paint Grim Afghan Picture
Did WikiLeaks Leaker Access Top Secret "Intelpedia?"
Hotsheet: White House Tries to Kill the Messenger
White House: "No Blank Check" for Pakistan
WikiLeaks Founder: Many More Documents to Come
WikiLeaks: Evidence of War Crimes in Afghan Docs
Afghan Gov't "Shocked" by Leak of War Documents
Pakistani Officials: WikiLeaks Claims "Outrageous"
WikiLeaks: Evidence of War Crimes in Afghan Docs
Afghan Gov't "Shocked" by Leak of War Documents
Pakistani Officials: WikiLeaks Claims "Outrageous"
Analyst: WikiLeaks Report Fuels War Debate
WikiLeaks Reveals Grim Afghan War Realities
Report: Pakistan Aiding Afghan Insurgency
Papers: Leaks Show Unreported Afghan Deaths

For more info:
No Secrets: How WikiLeaks Leaked the Apache Combat Video (The New Yorker)

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